GOP Senate Candidate Thinks Chinese Students Should Only Be Free To Learn ‘Freedom’

2020 Congressional Elections

Bryant "Corky" Messner, a Republican primary candidate running to challenge Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, has Donald Trump's seal of approval, so it's not a surprise he's a Know-Nothing xenophobe. During a closed-door meeting, Messner, who lets people call him “Corky," suggested the US should prohibit Chinese students from studying “hard sciences," and should only permit them to learn about “freedom and individual liberty." (It's unclear if Messner's OK with Chinese students taking a few drama courses to learn more about themselves, but we're guessing no.)

From Business Insider:

MESSNER: [M]ake no mistake about it. The Chinese Communist Party is bound [and] determined to be the leading economic and military power of the world, and we can no longer be the research and development arm for the Chinese Communist Party.

Messner isn't even an original xenophobe. Arkansas GOP Senator Tom Cotton proposed the same nonsense in April. An estimated 370,000 Chinese students were roaming the campuses of US colleges during the 2018/2019 academic year, stealing education for their diabolical schemes.

MESSNER: I think one of the things we ought to do [...] is say to the students, those students, "You're welcome to study here, but you must study economics, the American Constitution, freedom. Not study the hard sciences, computer science, physics, chemistry, and not give them that kind of education. Let's educate them in freedom and individual liberty.

“Freedom" is such a vague field of study. They might as well double major in “love." Messner doesn't see the irony of restricting Chinese students to a specific government-mandated curriculum and thinking that will help them learn about “freedom." Nothing instills the value of “individual liberty" to impressionable young people more than treating them as a collective threat because of their nationality.

MESSNER: They're exerting their influence throughout the world and it is time for us to be serious about the Chinese Communist Party. Yes, sir.

This is racist but also dumb. Trump started a trade war with China and whines endlessly about the country as an “economic" threat, but economics is on the approved majors list?

Trump attacks China's trade practices in UN speech

Messner claims "computer science and hard science areas are being weaponized" by the Chinese. He released a statement confirming what he said at the closed-door meeting and doubled down:

MESSNER: I encourage overseas students to continue coming to the US and witnessing firsthand our open and free society based on individual freedom. Therefore, I believe we must protect our interests by encouraging Chinese students to enroll in majors outside the science and technology fields.

There is no evidence Chinese students are spies serving Beijing's will.

One thing we'll say about Messner is that he's willing to screw American students, as well. He's bragged during the campaign about his Messner Foundation, which he claims awards college scholarships to low-income students every year.

From the Washington Post:

"You know, it's mostly my personal money," he told Republicans watching a "Beer Caucus" Zoom call in May with his rival, retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc. "You know, we do some things in the law firm around the country to raise money for the foundation. But ultimately we don't raise that much so it's essentially my money that goes into it to help these kids." He said the foundation had been started "maybe 10 years ago."

The foundation is closely related to Messner's law firm, Messner Reeves LLP. It was supposed to start awarding scholarships in 2011, but according to the IRS, the firm's original $100,000 contribution just sat there for years. According to Philip Hackney, an associate law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, this violates the tax law for private foundations that requires at least five percent of assets are distributed each year.

"I'm troubled by the fact that they did nothing for the first four or five years," [Hackney] said. "That doesn't pass muster."

Messner finally distributed funds in 2014 but not to some broke-ass kid. The foundation gave $50,000 to the Colorado Academy for "construction of athletic facilities." Messner's sons attended the Academy from kindergarten through 12th grade. A fancy private school, the Colorado Academy didn't need Messner's money: It received $700,000 in donations the same year and has an endowment of $22 million.

That same year, the Messner Foundation's website featured photos of Black and Hispanic students and claimed: "The Messner Foundation identifies underprivileged high school students. [...] The Messner Foundation not only helps its Scholars financially, but provides life experiences as well."


Majarlika Diane Villaruel-Mariano received $48,000 from the foundation over three years to attend the University of Denver. A second student was awarded funds in 2016. Messner has claimed many students have received funds over the years and two is not many. Any Chinese student could tell him that, even the ones majoring in “freedom."

[Washington Post / Business Insider]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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